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Fairbanks/Vega Regent 5 String Banjo (1910)

Fairbanks/Vega  Regent 5 String Banjo  (1910)

Fairbanks/Vega Regent Model 5 String Banjo (1910), made in Boston, Mass., serial # 26465, natural varnish finish, laminated maple neck and rim, ebony fingerboard, black tolex hard shell case.

The Fairbanks Regent is one of the classic 5-string banjos of the old pre-war (pre-WWI, that is!) Vega line, not a top-end model but still an extremely high quality instrument and a most attractive design. It appears to have been intended for players who still preferred an older 19th century style metal-and-wood rim, but wanted the quality of a Fairbanks banjo with the very fancy inlaid neck used on their more modern instruments.

The rim is a comparatively heavy spunover style, reminiscent of much older 1880s banjos with a simple tone ring built into the top edge. This was the typical banjo construction used by most makers before Fairbanks' invention of the heavy Electric and Tub-A-Phone maple rims with their elaborate tone ring designs.

The neck is basically the same as the Whyte Laydie #2, made of laminated maple with a bound 26" scale ebony fingerboard featuring engraved pearl designs. The headstock inlay is the classic Gryphon-and-star in beautifully incised pearl, one of the trademark Fairbanks/Vega designs and one of the most beautiful.

This is a completely original 5-string instrument with matching numbers on the dowel and rim; all dowel stick stamps are correct and intact. It is rare to find one of these in this original condition, and it remains as a fine example of one of Fairbanks/Vega's classic banjos, with a lovely if more archaic and darker old-time sound than the more elaborate Whyte Laydie or Tu-Ba-Phone more familiar to many players.
Overall length is 36 in. (91.4 cm.), 10 15/16 in. (27.8 cm.) diameter head, and 2 1/2 in. (6.4 cm.) in depth, measured at side of rim. Scale length is 26 in. (660 mm.). Width of nut is 1 1/4 in. (32 mm.).

This is a very well-preserved and amazingly original banjo for its age...and we're talking 110 years old folks! The plating on the rim is remarkably clean with only minor wear; the only notable loss is to the top of the armrest. All hardware -- hooks, nuts, shoes, and tuners -- is complete and intact; the only piece that appears replaced is the adjustment screw in the neck retainer. The original friction pegs and No-Knot tailpiece are intact. The neck and dowel stick finish show minor wear. There is a small polished-out spot in the center of the dowel where perhaps a resonator or mute was once attached, but the stamping is not compromised.

The head is an older (though not period) calfskin and the bridge is a recent Sullivan historic maple/ebony in the old Grover style. The headstock veneer shows some old shrinkage crack repair, though less than many we have seen. This is a great-sounding and playing banjo, a fairly unusual combination of the excellent and very sturdy Vega/Fairbanks neck construction that is fine for steel strings and an older 19th century style rim. The tone is darker than many Vega style instruments, but still with plenty of volume and a slightly mysterious character. Excellent Condition.

Item # 9226

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